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Android co-creator Andy Rubin has finally debuted the much-anticipated Essential phone, a high-end modular Android device from a company that uses “21st century methods to build products for the way people want to live in the 21st century,” according to a statement issued by Rubin earlier this month.
Rubin teased the Essential smartphone as far back as March, hinting at a minimalist bezel, but everything else has been speculation.
I'm really excited about how this is shaping up. Eager to get it in more people's hands… pic.twitter.com/LRzQCFSKTm
— Andy Rubin (@Arubin) March 27, 2017
Today, however, we know exactly what to expect from Rubin’s push into Android-based hardware.
The Essential phone can be reserved today through the company’s own online store for $699. Available only in black or white initially, it will eventually be made available in two additional colors, Stellar Grey and Ocean Depths, and, perhaps most notably — there is no visible branding on the device.
The lack of any discernible logo is, as you’d expect, no accident — it’s all part of the company’s mission to ensure its phones are perceived as a person’s “personal property,” according to the official marketing lingo. “It’s a public expression of who you are and what you stand for,” the company says. “Just because we played a part in making it doesn’t mean you should be forced to advertise that fact to everyone in your life.”
This may seem a minor point on the surface, but it is the sort of detail that will appeal to many anti-consumerism technophiles out there.
Digging into the nuts and bolts of the phone reveals some pretty high-end specifications. It sports the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Octa-core processor, a 2,560 x 1,312 QHD display, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of built-in storage.
For comparison, the Essential’s 5.71″ display is a fraction smaller than the Samsung Galaxy S8’s 5.8″ screen, though Essential manages to shave more than 7mm off its height and 0.2mm off its thickness. The Essential, however, is around 3mm wider than the Samsung Galaxy S8 and weighs around 30 grams more.
Many will also be disappointed to learn that the Essential follows a growing trend among smartphones, insofar as it has ditched the traditional headphone jack. The box does include a USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter, though.
It’s also worth noting here that the Essential smartphone is made of titanium, as opposed to aluminum, which should mean it’s more durable — the company dropped the device onto solid concrete to help highlight this point.
As a slight aside here, Essential isn’t selling protective cases directly through its own website — apparently you won’t need one.
“We believe titanium is the perfect material to create one of the most essential things in our lives — one we all sometimes drop,” the company says.
At any rate, you can peruse a full and detailed list of the Essential’s specifications in the table below.
Though there is no shortage of premium Android phones out there already, Essential offers an interesting insight into how the company plans to differentiate and expand.
For starters, it’s also offering a 360-degree camera that connects magnetically to the phone and transfers data wirelessly. The camera will normally cost $200, but those reserving an Essential early can get one for $50.
There is also a charging dock that connects in a similar way to the Essential phone. And this gives a hint as to what else could come from the company’s vaults, or potentially from third parties, with options for expanding functionality through add-ons.
That all said, Essential faces a rocky road if it’s to put a serious dent in a smartphone market that is largely dominated by the likes of Apple and Samsung in the West.
Essential can be reserved from today in the U.S., though there is no word on when it will actually ship. The company’s template response to that question on its FAQ page simply states: “Please be sure to keep an eye on our social media channels and Essential.com for these announcements!”
And there is no word on an international release date, either.
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